So far, Montana is treating me very well indeed! The people have been unfailingly friendly and kind, and the sun continues to shine.
After leaving Eureka, I
got overtaken by bumped into some others also cycling the Divide and we spent a couple of days together. One of them is an expert on this sort of thing and put me on a kit diet, and I have now lost 8Ibs by following the UPS weight-loss plan and shipping stuff I don’t need to my cousin. He urged me to ditch things I was mulling over whether to part ways with, with a “Anna, if you’re even thinking about it, you don’t need it – it’s gone already”. So I’ve said goodbye to my stove and after a “those pants [trousers] – off, you don’t need ’em” I’ve said goodbye to several items of relaxed loungewear and god knows what else but it somehow came to 8Ibs worth of stuff.
After lightening the load I thought “I am going to be cooking on gas now!” and sure enough my flame that was previously barely lit is now at gas mark 2 and I have seen some improvement in my performance. The route instructions of “start climbing” that used to mean “get off your bike, have a biscuit, put Phil Collins on then start walking until you’re at the top of the hill” now actually means “start climbing”. I did a 6 mile climb the other day which I’m quite proud of!
The good thing about climbs is that you get a chance to safely cycle without a helmet and let what I used to call my hair, breathe. My ‘hair’ seems to have been replaced by some sort of organic matter that resides upon my head. I’m not sure when I last washed it, but I know I was in a different country at the time. I’m a bit worried that things have got so bad that I’m going to need extensive massaging in the sink with some heavy duty detergent, like a cormorant post oil-spill disaster. Hopefully that will disperse the worst of the oil and dirt to allow the shampoo to penetrate through to the hair underneath.
I could have washed it when we camped in the back garden of Rita and Chuck, a very generous couple who offer their property on the Warm Showers website but felt a bit bad if all 4 of us had one! I left the others to spend an extra day at Rita and Chuck’s place in Whitefish and carried on alone as I move at a more refined pace and knew I’d see them again at some point when they overtook me again.
I wasn’t alone for long as people are extremely friendly and most people I see on the logging roads I’ve mostly been riding on (who are usually collecting firewood or going huckleberry picking) stop for a chat. And I had dinner and drinks bought for me in Ferndale after a pit-stop for chicken and chips before heading off into the wilds to camp. A table of locals saw me/smelt me, realised what I was doing and said I could camp out the back of the Roadhouse. Imagine something in middle-of-nowhere America that’s called the Roadhouse and you’re probably close to imagining what type of joint this was. I offered to buy them a beer to say thanks for the camping tip and next thing I know I’ve had a great night with new BF’s Joey, Fella, Bob and River the multiple-tasking Golden Retriever who will be “your hunting partner, your best friend and then he’ll sniff your cancer”. I’ve left them worrying that WWIII is about to break out as “we’ve let Germany get strong again and look what happened last time we let that happen”. Not sure that’s number 1 on my list of global concerns but maybe I’m being naive!
Next day I wild-camped as wanted to go a bit further than the recommended mileage (as that is how I roll nowadays) and drifted off to sleep after being handed a cold beer by an RV driver who was blatantly massively lost and blatantly not wanting to tell his crew he was massively lost. Those little moments of generosity are what have characterised Montana thus far. That and snakes.
Snakes are going great guns on the animal scoring chart! I’ve now seen 5 although 3 have, similarly to the first one, had 5 points deducted by being dead but one was alive and elicited a loud gasp so that gets 9 points. And we have a new entrant! I was camped on the shored of Clearwater Lake, lying on my side looking out the tent and a beaver goes sailing past. 10 points for being cute and swimming serenely, head above water like girls do when they don’t want to get their hair wet.
So that’s Montana for now, and it’s getting more and more beautiful as I continue to gain altitude and leave the low-lying land around the border behind. Excitingly for me and no one else, I’m now on the 2nd side of the Montana map and yesterday was my one-fifth anniversary having done 20% of the route and given most people don’t finish it, I’m pretty happy with 20%.